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Attorney General William Barr stated on Monday that there is a legal path to adding the citizenship question to the 2020 United States Census, despite a negative ruling at the Supreme Court.
Late last month, the high court ruled (5-4) Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross had not provided an adequate rationale why a person’s citizenship status should be included in the census.
“The reasoned explanation requirement of administrative law, after all, is meant to ensure that agencies offer genuine justifications for important decisions, reasons that can be scrutinized by courts and the interested public,” Chief Justice John Roberts wrote in the majority opinion, which was joined by the court’s four liberal justices.
“Accepting contrived reasons would defeat the purpose of the enterprise. If judicial review is to be more than an empty ritual, it must demand something better than the explanation offered for the action taken in this case.”
The justices remanded the case back to federal district court, which gives the Trump administration another chance to make its argument about why the question was added.
The last time the federal government included a question about a person’s citizenship status was for the 1950 census.
Barr told the Associated Press that he has been in consultation with President Donald Trump concerning the issue.
“I agree with him that the Supreme Court decision was wrong,” Barr said.
The attorney general added he believes there is “an opportunity potentially to cure the lack of clarity that was the problem and we might as well take a shot at doing that.”
The Trump administration had argued before the Supreme Court that the question had been included to aid in enforcing the Voting Rights Act.
Roberts characterized that explanation in his ruling as seeming to be “contrived.”
The AP reported that the Justice Department has decided to replace its legal team, as it prepares to go forward with the case at federal district court. A department official said the new team would consist of both career and politically appointed attorneys.
Trump told reporters last week that he is weighing issuing an executive order directing the Commerce Department to include the citizenship question in the 2020 census, which would likely be a means to further strengthen the legal argument for its inclusion.
“We’re thinking about doing that, it’s one of the ways,” Trump told reporters, according to The Hill.
“You need it for many reasons. Number one, you need it for Congress, for districting. You need it for appropriations: Where are the funds going, how many people are there, are they citizens, are they not citizens? You need it for many reasons,” Trump said of the need to include the question.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stated on Monday that adding it to the census is an attempt by Trump to “make America white again.”